No more Covid-19 testing for 'healthy' Cape Town residents

The Western Cape government is tightening its testing regulations because of a shortage of testing kits.
The Western Cape government is tightening its testing regulations because of a shortage of testing kits.

If you are younger than 55, don't have a chronic illness and live in Cape Town, then you're not going to be tested for Covid-19 - even if you develop symptoms.

This as the Western Cape government tightens its testing regulations because of a shortage of testing kits.

Premier Alan Winde said a decision had to be made after the backlog of tests in the public sector grew to about 27,000 for the Western Cape alone. Winde said the move was to save lives.

Currently the waiting list for tests around the country was about 100,000, with people waiting 7-12 days for their results.

“The Western Cape government has taken the important decision to test only those who are at highest risk and most vulnerable in the Cape Town metropolitan area,” he said.

Those in the private sector and outside the Cape metro will not fall into this category and would still be tested.

Testing only the most vulnerable will allow the province to get test results back as quickly as possible “so that we can ensure speedy interventions to save lives,” he said.

Referring to the backlog, Winde said: “This means that someone who is seriously ill in hospital, or a health worker, or someone who we know is at high risk of dying from Covid-19, may have to wait 7-12 days for a result. This is simply not an option.

“Among those who will be prioritised include those with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, HIV and tuberculosis.”

Winde said the province had called on President Cyril Ramaphosa and health minister Zweli Mkhize to address this backlog - “and I am appreciative of efforts that they are taking to do so”.

The lack of test kits emanates from a global shortage, which has resulted in SA receiving a limited supply.

The decision to test only the most vulnerable could be temporary, he added, if extra testing capacity is made available.

Winde said the decision “is the only remaining solution” for now to ensure early detection of Covid-19 in those at highest risk of dying.

Preserving test kits would also ensure greater protection for health-care workers, who are the most at risk.

“Indeed, if we can get a test back within 24-48 hours, we can ensure early treatment and, in need,  hospitalise those people who we know will deteriorate rapidly as the infection progresses,” said Winde. “For some of our residents, it might be the difference between living and dying.”

These are the people who will be eligible for testing:

  • if you are over 55 and have Covid-19 symptoms;
  • if you are younger than 55 and have any cancer, diabetes, hypertension, HIV (with poor adherence to antiretrovirals) or chronic lung disease (including TB and asthma);
  • if you are a health-care worker and have Covid-19 symptoms; and
  • if you live in a care or old age home and have Covid-19 symptoms.

Those who had symptoms of Covid-19 and don’t fall into this criteria should, however, isolate for 14 days to prevent the virus from spreading to others.

Winde said that local and international data showed that 90% of people infected with Covid-19 would not require hospitalisation and that 2% of those with confirmed cases have died.

Of those who died, 96% had underlying health conditions and were older than 55.  

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